Student Spotlight: Mindy Adnot Tackles Tough Teacher Evaluation Issues

Mindy Adnot
4th year Ph.D student in the Education Policy program at the Curry School of Education, a researcher at EdPolicyWorks, and a VEST pre-doctoral fellow.
Hometown: Gainesville, FL

Question: Why did you choose the Curry School of Education?

Mindy AdnotAdnot: I was drawn to U.Va. and EdPolicyWorks because of the work Jim Wyckoff was doing with teachers in New York. I started my career in education as a New York City Teaching Fellow and taught sixth grade Math and Science. Later, I worked with The New Teacher Project (TNTP) on teacher evaluations at a district level. This was back in 2009 as districts were just beginning to reconsider how teacher evaluation could be used both to differentiate between teachers for personnel decisions, and to provide information to teachers to help them improve. I became interested in learning methods to evaluate the effect of these new systems, and the work at EdPolicyWorks was a clear fit.

Question: What are you working on now?

Adnot: I’m currently working with my advisor, Jim Wyckoff, Tom Dee at Stanford, and Veronica Katz—who is also a student in the program—on research relating to Washington D.C. Public Schools teacher evaluation system, IMPACT. We look at lots of different aspects of how teacher evaluation affects teacher retention and performance and student achievement, but what I’m most interested in is how the process of evaluation changes what teachers do in the classroom. I look at classroom observation data to see if incentives and feedback change teachers’ instructional practice over time.

Question: Why is this work important and how will it be impactful in the future?

Adnot: Studying the effects of high-stakes teacher evaluation feels important to me because right now its something that we still don’t know a lot about. In particular, I’m interested in how different aspects of teaching change when teachers receive more feedback and have stronger incentives to improve than they do in most systems.  In the future, this work may help us to understand how teachers make improvements, what supports and conditions help them improve, and what skills and abilities they need to come into teaching with to be effective in the long run.

Question: In what ways has EdPolicyWorks influenced you?

Adnot: The interdisciplinary nature of EdPolicyWorks has exposed me to theories of human behavior from a variety of disciplines such as economics and psychology, and I think this type of cross-pollination is relatively rare. The intensive mentorship at EdPolicyWorks has also played a big role in my development as a researcher.  Jim Wyckoff has spent a lot of one-on-one time with me both on methods and building a broader understanding of the field of teacher labor markets.  Additionally, I’ve either taken classes with or worked informally with just about every member of the faculty—there’s a real community here that supports the development of graduate students.  They’re fantastic and have made U.Va. a great place to begin my career in education research.

In the future, Adnot hopes to be doing research that is applied and closely tied to what is happening in schools. She is also a fellow in the Virginia Education Sciences Training (VEST), a pre-doctoral fellowship program funded by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences.

EdPolicyWorks is a joint collaboration between the Curry School of Education and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. EdPolicyWorks brings together researchers from across the University of Virginia and the State to focus on important questions of educational policy and implications for the workforce.